Battery packs don’t need to be Darth Vader for EVs

Battery packs are not as big a challenge for carmakers to entice car shoppers to check out plug-in electric vehicles as had been initially worried over. Advanced lithium-ion battery systems being installed in new plug-in electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf aren’t exactly cheap these days and make the cars more expensive than a lot of consumers care for (prior to federal and state incentives and rebates).

There’s also been criticism voiced about the high volume of batteries that will be manufactured for the big wave of electric cars coming to dealers in your neighborhood. The problem here is adding to pollution and toxic landfills when these used up batteries need to be dumped and replaced with yet another battery.

The good news is that these lithium-ion batteries are lighter, hold more energy than the lead-acid batteries that used to be the norm in hybrid electric vehicles, and last longer. And they’re getting better all the time – longer life, more driving range per charge, and there’s more usage opportunities for the batteries that you’d think. They can actually be recycled and used productively for other gadgets – and for electric vehicles.

Several manufacturers are already recycling old batteries from other electrical goods such as laptops and phones. Carmakers such as Honda and Toyota, both of whom have been building hybrid vehicles for more than a decade, have programs running to recycle old batteries.

When the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicles were launched last year, consumers were pleased to see eight year, 100,000 mile warranties on their battery systems. It also helps to hear about the ownership experience of true early adopters, who bought their electric vehicles in the 1990s, such as the original Toyota RAV4 electric version. These owners still have their original battery packs more than 10 years later.

Nissan Motor Co. has said that repairing its Nissan Leaf battery system involves swapping certain modules instead of the entire, expensive battery pack. Such repairs, if needed, would cost owners hundreds, not thousands of dollars. That’s more good news for electric car shoppers to hear about.


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